SAMPLE 3 - 'PAST ACCOMPLISHMENTS' ESSAY

PROFILE OF THE APPLICANT

  • Immigrated to the US at the age of 17
  • Accounting Major from ASU in 2005
  • Auditor at KPMG for 1.5 years
  • Senior Financial Analyst at Allied Waste for three years
  • Principal Financial Analyst at AAA since October 2010

ESSAY QUESTION

Explain how your past accomplishments have prepared you for the W.P. Carey MBA. (Two pages 1.5 spacing)

BAD EXAMPLE OF APPROACHING THIS QUESTION

When I worked as Financial Analyst in the FP&A group at Allied Waste Industries, the news of its merger with the Florida-based company, Republic Services Inc. came out. I faced this challenge by volunteering for training Upper Management on a process to identify significant income statement variances and address them as needed before quarterly financial earnings are released.

The writer starts off with a statement of a challenging situation and the challenge she undertook without providing any details/ story about the situation she was in. Thus, she makes her beginning boring by telling most of her story in the first two sentences without setting the appropriate context.



GOOD EXAMPLE OF APPROACHING THIS QUESTION

I was the newest Analyst in the Financial Planning group at Allied Waste Industries, the second-largest waste management company in the world when its merger announcement with Republic Services Inc. came out.

The applicant grabs the reader's attention by beginning to narrate her story of a turning point in her career when the company she worked for was ready for merger with another company.

The news of the merger not only came with new, exciting opportunities within the two companies, but also with immense challenges and responsibilities.

The applicant continues with her story and discusses the new possibilities and challenges this transition led to.

It was at this time of chaos that I, a 24-year old young analyst, volunteered myself to train 400 Upper Management Controllers managing $8B+ revenue across the country to identify anomalies in income statement and to address them before the release of quarterly earnings.

The applicant hasn't yet explained her past accomplishments explicitly, but her story so far has unfolded her leadership potential to accept challenges in difficult situations and her incredible confidence in volunteering to train people who are twice her age.

I said to myself, 'This shouldn't be very hard; all I need to do is build a model in excel, build a macro to populate model based on the area selected, throw in some conditional formatting, and ask Controllers to address the variances.'

This sentence speaks volumes of her ability to maintain her calm in challenging circumstances, to plan ahead, to prepare a strategy, and to collaborate effectively with her team.

Of course, I did not realize that the Controllers I was going to train came from a mix of two very different companies and followed different accounting techniques. Also, these were folks that I had never met. It took a little while for the feeling to sink in, as this was my chance to make a place in the Financial Planning and Analysis group. So it was very important that I succeeded.

This reveals that the applicant is well aware of the challenges ahead of her; she also knows that it is an excellent opportunity for her growth.

There was a lot at stake. I knew it fairly well that my failure to accomplish this project will not only put my credibility and growth at stake, but will also adversely impact two people's reputations - my immediate boss, the senior manager of the company and the senior director of finance who had supported me in this venture. Another negative impact would be that it would add days of work to our group. Nevertheless, I resolved to accept the challenge and started pounding my way through.

She further tells us about the negative consequences in case she had failed in this venture. She still resolves to take a plunge and give it her best shot.

I started off by studying the financial statements of the two companies, carefully listing the differences in handling accounting of different types of expenses.

She begins to narrate how she took a step-by-step approach to execute this plan.

The first task was to understand and then reach a consensus on differences between the accounting practices of two companies. In order to accomplish this, I insisted on scheduling scheduled a meeting with the Chief Accounting Officers of both companies wherein we agreed upon the differences and decided on one way of going forward.

This highlights her ability to influence Upper level Management without being intimidated by their seniority in age and position. This also reveals that she is a team-oriented professional.

This paved way for me to do what I love the most about being a Financial Analyst, that is, 'building models'.

This demonstrates her enthusiasm and passion for her job.

I braced myself to build a dynamic model, my very first dynamic model in my second year with the company. My goal was to build a user-friendly, time-saving model for Variance Analysis process to report accurate data, to validate the numbers at different levels, to explain drivers for major account variances, and to strategize and plan better for future growth. Indeed, it was a tremendous challenge for a newcomer like me, so I decided to put in extra hours at work and learned advanced skills at Excel to be able to accomplish the goal I had set for myself.

Her accomplishment of building the model reveals her diligence, her foresightedness, and her willingness to take extra steps to achieve her goal in order to succeed professionally.

Now that the model was ready to be rolled out to the Controllers, my next and the most difficult challenge was to train the Controllers on the significance of this process and the ease of using the model. Just thinking about 24-year old Analyst training professionals with 20+ years of experience gave me goose bumps. I reminded myself of this being the opportunity to really grow and make my place in Finance, so I scheduled training sessions for all the Region and Area Controllers. Despite all the challenges I faced, I felt pretty confident at the end of the three training sessions.

This part of her story again highlights her clear minded, die-hard approach to her job at hand, her leadership qualities, her perseverance and her willingness and drive to keep growing in her job. What makes her more commendable is that she doesn't let her young age diminish her confidence when working with senior and more experienced co-workers.

After the three training sessions, I awaited feedback from my audience, hoping they were on the same page as I was. A few days later, my boss took me out for lunch and informed me about an extremely positive feedback she had received about me from the Management team after the trainings. She further stated that they found the excel model very easy to use and preferred reviewing their financials at the multiple levels using this model over running traditional reports from the AS400 system. My model resulted in savings of $1.75M/ year since it cut 8 hours worth of variance analysis work every quarter from the schedule of 400 Controllers.

As she nears the end of her story, she begins to see the results of her work i.e. her boss gives her an incredibly positive feedback about the training.

In addition, the success of this project opened doors for several other projects that gave me greater visibility to the Executive team. My models were used in corporate level presentations. It has been over two years now, and I have excelled in everything that has come my way, but at the same time, I believe, I am also at the point where I need to jump to the next level of my career. I strongly believe, getting an MBA will help me enhance my knowledge and experience, and facilitate the process of getting to that level.

Her story concludes with her final accomplishments. Her success at this project won her another dynamic project with the Field Management and her models were used in presentations and quarterly reviews.


SUMMARY

Summing up, when approaching an essay question, make sure your beginning is interesting and engaging. There are several ways of making an effective beginning - a quote, an interesting description, an anecdote, a question, a startling statement, or statistics. You may use any method that works for you. In the example above, the applicant begins with the story of a turning point in her career.

Secondly, make your story engaging by unfolding it gradually in order to make the Admissions Committee keep reading your essay until the end. For example, in this essay about past accomplishments, the applicant has not made an explicit statement of her accomplishments even once; instead, she has narrated her story that gradually unfolds all of her significant accomplishments.

Lastly, pay attention to the structure of your essay. Make sure your writing flows smoothly and one idea leads to another. Always use transition words and phrases to connect your ideas.